With the increasing trend of the remarkably importance of the gender pay equality during the past few decades, organisations and many commentators have been paying particular attention to the relative trends, legislations, news, economy and global labour market as a whole to address the persistence of the gender pay inequality occurred nowadays. Pay equity is defined as “a particular strategy for reducing or eliminating the wage gap between or among groups such as women and men, or various ethnic groups”. It was mentioned in the CONSAD Research Corporation’s paper (2009) that there have been significant increase for women to participate in the labour force, to acquire higher education level and to make substantial real earnings. Yet the challenge is that women have been earning less than men all through the developed countries around the world even they are well educated and actively participate in the workforce. Taking an example in Australia, women earn approximately 80 percent of men’s wages. The persistence of the gender pay gap is puzzling although the gender pay equity ratio has been steadily rising and a wide range of legislations such as Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action were implemented to address the issue.
The ancient time of keeping women staying and working at home while men were responsible for earning a living had passed after the World War II. The participation rate of women joining the labour force has greatly boosted due to the establishment of some legislation to remove obstacles to women’s employment and to allow women working in certain kinds of work such as metal industry. The booming economy and labour shortage triggered the fact that women were encouraged to replace men, who were resisting in the war, in the labour market. Campaigns were also formed by many women’s organisations to fight for the equal pay between men and women.
One of the primary reasons for the gender pay differences is due to occupational segregation. Men and women are not evenly allocated in all occupational categories. Women tend to be distributed in low-paying industries or occupations which directly affect their average earnings. It was pointed out that women were mainly employed in community services, the wholesale and retail trade, clerical work and catering; whereas men were generally employed in mining, electricity, gas and water, manufacturing as well as construction industries where men are more likely to receive well above average pay.
Rather than constraining women in particular occupations or industries, vertical segregation occurs in both public and private sectors when women are located in lower positions and men are placed in more senior positions such as executive or managerial roles. Women are given very few opportunities to engage in promotion to higher positions, and therefore women are constrained their mobility upwards to the organisational hierarchy and they are under-represented in senior positions in all occupations.
As a result of the family obligation to give birth as well as take care of the children and elders at home, there has been a greater percentage for women to participate in more flexible part-time and casual employments than men who tend to have full-time employments. Undoubtedly, it was claimed by many reporters that part-time employment pays relatively less than full-time employment, thus the unbalanced participation in part-time works causes women to be classified in lower level of income groups without adequate chances for skill advancement and promotion opportunities.
Direct Gender Discrimination
There are many theorists agreed that direct gender discrimination partly account for the gender wage gap. It happens when women and men are treated unequally facing the same job requirements with the same educational level and work experience. Although it is unlawful to discriminate women from being recruited in male-nominated occupations in most of the developed countries, gender discrimination indeed moderately initiates the gender pay differences. It was even reported that gender discrimination and bias comprise half of the gender pay gap. Consequently, no matter the organisational and societal sex discrimination is intentional or unintentional, it is clear that gender bias is an essential element of the persistence of wage gap between men and women.
Advantages of the Existence of Gender Pay Equality
Despite the limitations acknowledged which block the way to gender pay equality, there are a series of advantages for individuals, families, organisations and economy as a whole provided that gender pay equity exists. Pay equality increases the empowerment of women and reduces the chances of women’s experience to harassment, violence and exploitation at work. Additionally, it brings positive effects to the well-being and wealth of the families as a result of the increased income, which ultimately improves the situation of poverty, economy, and social justice.
The condition of gender pay inequality has been steadily improved in the last few decades. However, in reality it does persist due to an array of complex reasons in terms of occupational and vertical segregation, parenthood, women’s propensity of education and occupation choices and patterns, historical stereotypes and under-valuation of women’s skills and work, direct gender discrimination, the setback of the merit-type payment systems, union affiliation, and different values on wage and nonwage employee benefits between men and women. These factors illustrated are merely the key causes and further research should be done to elaborate the thorough formation of the wage gap. It is clear that the pursuit of gender pay equality brings individuals, families, organisations, community and economy positive effects. Consequently, organisations should better equip themselves and contribute to the attainment of eliminating the gender wage gap. Systematic and appropriate non-discriminatory workplace practices and policies should be well implemented to encourage fairness among male and female employees in pay and promotion according to their knowledge, skills and competencies. On account of the increased staff morale and happiness at work, organisations can also build a healthy and positive public image that in turn increasing the organisational attractiveness and competitive advantages in the labour market. In conjunction with the practical support by government, community and unions, it is believed further reduction of the gender wage gap is feasible.